Capstone: Modern Thought

Posted by Rebecca Moore - 21 May, 2014

Visitors interacted with Avery Kennedy's installation.A highlight for me every spring is attending the Capstone presentations. A challenge is always figuring out how to convey what an extraordinary endeavor they are.
Visitors interacted with Avery Kennedy's installation.

 “With deep curiosity and engagement, this year’s Capstone students have immersed themselves in Modernism (circa 1885-1913), with intensive study of philosophical outlooks; political, social, and scientific developments; and modes of artistic expression,” says Lewis Cobbs, Head of English, who leads the seminar. “The range of these seniors’ culminating projects suggests not only the seriousness with which they

 Foard Nauman illuminated the work of Thomas Edison.Foard Nauman illuminated the work of Thomas Edison.

 explored perspectives that destabilized or overturned older ways of thinking but also the originality of their own responses: research into and analysis of mythology, literature, and history; innovations in mathematics and technology; composition of original poetry and fiction; creation of original paintings, installations, and films; recreation of scientific experiments and discoveries.”

Looking at any cluster of student work, an observer may be struck by the extent to which a student puts his or her stamp on an assignment, how deeply one engaged with the material and what one did with it. Not all work calls for this—verbs must be conjugated and theorems and mechanics learned—but think about the first time you looked at some work your child did at school that provided the scope for self-expression and you saw the sparks of the way that particular mind works; it is exciting.

Capstone project photo by Maggie DalrympleMaggie Dalrymple explored gender stereotypes in her Capstone photo project.

First grade self-portraits, 4th grade movies, middle school math projects, 7th grade utopias, 11th grade I-Search and ethnography projects – along the way there are ample opportunities for Randolph students to fuse an assignment with their own particular interests so that result is something unique to them. And Capstone, as its name suggests, is a culmination of this kind of work.

Now in its third year, no Capstone class is alike and the presentations are all so different; the mediums of expression will depend on the interests and talents of the dozen or so seniors who have elected to take this leg of the Randolph journey. Some years, presentations have taken place in the band or choir room. This year the arts were visual and dramatic, not musical. Presentations included an installation piece in the athletics building, two films, an electrical experiment, and original work of fiction (with a chemical reaction), lectures on math, poetry and philosophy, and three art shows. In several instances, students expressed themselves in a previously unexplored medium--film, photography and sculpture. In my time at Randolph, I had never before seen a piece of installation art.

Miller Bethea made a silent movie about the tension between science and religion that was based on a study of early cinematography and romantic/Gothic literature, something, he said, “that would push my boundaries.”

Grace Swaim turned the material of Modernism, the ideas at play and their proponents, into an original work of fact-based fiction. “Capstone,” she says, “is a class that delivers a comprehensive understanding of a brief moment in cultural time--a perfect picture of the attitude of modernism.”

As Shibani Chakrabarty noted in the conclusion of her talk on the Bloomsbury Group, that notable salon resembled the Capstone class, comprising a diverse group of people, working in a variety of modes of expression, having a conversation around some common ideas.

This creates uncommon, extraordinary learning.

Capstone 2014

[gallery ids="3032,3031,3028,3025,3023,3027,3029,3022,3037,3021,3030,3044"]

The Angel of Death by Miller Bethea

 Gideon's Call by Perry Scalfano


Topics: 12th grade, Academics, creativity, School Culture, curriculum, English, Freedom, High Expectations, interdisciplinary, Relationships, #rstories13, the world, Upper School

Recent Posts

Senior Speech: A Reputation with Yourself

read more

Founders Key Award: Jim Palmer

read more

Senior Speech: The Power of Believing in Yourself

read more